A Primitive Ecclesiology

As you know, I’m involved in writing projects up to my eyeballs. One book I am currently writing is called Godworld. (I think I’ll subtitle it something like Enter at Your Own Risk). Over the past few days I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this topic. Emerson once noted in his Journal that “Life consists in what a man is thinking of all day.” For many years a considerable portion of my time has been devoted to the problem of ecclesiology. Being stubborn by nature and a professor by training and education, I hold to the notion that the status quo is rarely acceptable. John Wesley wanted his movement to recover the full message and power of what he called “the Primitive Church.” He was an ardent student of early Christianity. Wesley also studied the Anabaptist groups and the Moravians. Wesley and his followers knew that awakening interest in the church without bringing people to pursue Gospel living was a waste of time. When pre-Christian people talk about “church,” unfortunately they often refer to people whose alien language and jargon have nothing to do with the real world in which these same people live. Christians dress and act in abnormal ways. Their traditionalist churchianity is a language no one seems to understand. The New Testament, by way of contrast, calls Christians to “exegete” the culture that God entrusts to them and to indigenize their faith — witness the 18th century Methodists who wrote Christian hymns to be sung to the tunes people loved to sing in the public houses. As for missions, the New Testament calls all of us — clergy and laity alike — to live out our faith in our mundane professions. (Few are called to seminary!) We are to penetrate the culture for Christ and thus fulfill the second commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.” The love of which the New Testament speaks is not so much a feeling as a disposition of good will and service toward others, including people outside our own social networks, nationality, and race. We are to love others as God does. It is just as important that we love the lost as it is to believe that Jesus died for our sins. Growing into the likeness of Christ is essentially “downward mobility.” Because people matter to God, they matter to us. The goal is not mere conversion but bringing people to full devotion to Christ. Evangelism is therefore normative for God’s people. It is simply living and sharing the amazing good news about Jesus in one’s own sphere of influence. This is the process I want to be involved in. It is the process of entering this amazing Godworld — and doing so at our own risk! I want to be involved in this Godworld, not because I am a professor in a seminary, but simply because I am a follower of Jesus.

“Life consists in what a man is thinking of all day.” I would not pretend that I am yet consumed with a love for the lost as Jesus was. I have, however, begun to travel this downward path of Jesus. Just as all Christians have been joined to Christ and participate in His life, so all Christians are called to the ministry of witness and invitation.

Think about it.

(From Dave Black Online. David Alan Black is the author of Energion titles Christian Archy, The Jesus ParadigmWhy Four Gospels? and the forthcoming Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?. Used by permission.)